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How Can Social Media Enhance
the Customer Experience?

By Giovanni Rodriguez
Chief Marketing Officer at Deloitte Postdigital Enterprise

Over the past few months, I've been looking at a trend that I'm betting will soon shake up the marketing world: the merger of the online and offline customer experience.

If you've been in the marketing business long enough, this will not strike you as something new. But with the very recent convergence of a number of consumer-facing technologies—the cloud, mobility, and, yes, social technology—the concept is finally coming true.

The upshot is that marketers will stop paying so much attention to the online customer experience and start paying more attention to what happens when the customer walks into the "store."

Not that the online experience doesn't matter. In fact, it will matter even more as digital begins to show its strength as a range of technologies that enable new ways to identify and engage the customer. But in the places that really matter (literally)—stores, banks, restaurants, hotels, airports, and even the workplace—the live experience with the connected consumer is the next big venue for innovation, whether the consumer be your customer, your employee, or your partner in industry. This is true not only because live experience has become such a novelty, but also because live experience is a place ripe for innovation.

What should a store look like when people can buy almost anything online? What are the roles that retail employees should play in those stores? And what should the workplace look like when so many people work from home? These are good questions for the new architects—marketers—of customer experience.

How Can Social Media Enhance
the Customer Experience?

By Hollis Thomases
Author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day

A customer's experience with your brand may now start well before they even know who you are. Social media enhances that experience with feedback and impressions businesses can't provide on their own. The feedback comes from the customer, and the conversations are between them and their friends, family, and colleagues. We can be part of it and ultimately enhance our customers' experiences.

Social media is woven throughout the customer experience—from research to purchasing decision and on through to the customer support phase post-sale.

Customers harness the reach of their own networks to share their experience with brands and crowdsource decisions. This presents businesses with tremendous opportunity. Through monitoring social media and with the help of online reputation management tools, we now know:

  • WHAT is being said about us (reviews, testimonials, brand sentiments)
  • WHO is saying it (male/female, location)
  • WHEN they're talking (researching purchases, point of purchase, post-sale)
  • WHERE they're talking (social networks, blogs, forums, review sites)
  • HOW they're saying it (on your website or theirs, by device, on-the-go versus mobile)

Social media enhances the customer experience by giving companies the tools to respond to customers in their preferred method. And with analysis, we should address the important question:

  • WHY people publicly interact with our brand (share with friends, get answers, get better service, brag. complain)

Once they know the "why," brands can start doing some influencing of their own.

How Can Social Media Enhance
the Customer Experience?

By Patrick Strother
Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota

In many ways, the ultimate purpose of social media for business is to enhance the customer experience.

Prior to the 21st century, the relationship between the company and the customer was more of a monologue than a dialogue. This profound shift has created a revolutionary opportunity for customers to connect with businesses on a more level playing field.

Social media enhances the customer experience in three key ways.

First, it offers a chance to expand the augmented product benefit. In much the same way as a warranty adds to the benefit of security, social media extends the product benefit by allowing customers a unique way to connect with other like-minded customers and experience the product and company that made it on a deeper level than just the sales or direct use experience.

Second, it provides a way for brands to connect with customers with value-added, relevant content in a time and place that is convenient for them. It also offers a direct path for customers to find answers to questions they might have about a brand's products or services.

Third, it reinforces the purchase decision by creating a venue for dialogue with the brand and other users.

Many companies now say that many of their customers report that they checked out their social media footprint before they bought the company's product. This is not something they said a year ago.

Giovanni Rodriguez

Giovanni Rodriguez is the CMO at Deloitte Postdigital Enterprise, where he is helping to build new services in the digital/social/mobile arena. Before Deloitte, Giovanni was the CMO at BroadVision, an innovator in enterprising social networking. He has consulted for numerous B2B leaders, including The New York Stock Exchange, SAP, Alcatel-Lucent, and Verizon Business, as well as leading consumer brands, such as General Mills, Unilever, and Best Buy. Giovanni is a graduate of Princeton University and an MSc candidate at the University of London.

Hollis Thomases

Hollis Thomases is the author of the new book, Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day. She is an accomplished public speaker and a contributing columnist for ClickZ. Hollis was named the 2007 SBA Maryland Small Business Person of the Year, 2008 Enterprising Woman of the Year by Enterprising Women magazine, and recently made the Baltimore Business Journal's List of Baltimore's Top 50 Women-Owned Businesses.

Patrick Strother

Patrick Strother is a Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota. He is also the Principal at Strother Communications Group (SCG). Patrick is a thought leader in the integration of research, branding, public relations, advertising, social media, and direct marketing. He created the proprietary "Converging on Customers" model to help guide SCG in the long term.